Unaka's Ensor TSSAA coach of year
No one will ever forget the Cinderella story of how the 2003-04 Unaka Rangers defeated all odds and brought the boys basketball state championship home to Carter County.
Several sportswriters said it was the best display of team basketball that they had ever witnessed during the tournament. A mastermind was behind the controls and was recently awarded for his efforts.
This week, Donald Ensor gathered the most prestigious award given to a high school basketball coach by being named TSSAA basketball coach of the year for 2003-04 in all classifications. For Ensor, it's an award that he shares with many.
"This team had some of the best kids that you could ever be around," said Ensor. "It couldn't have happened to a better group of kids.
Ensor was quick to give credit to his assistant coaches Johnny Ensor, Richard Thomas and Larry Bowling for the award.
"They have worked so hard and sacrificed so much that they had a huge part in our team success," he said. "This is as much theirs as it is mine."
Donald praised his dad and mom (Dennie and Ruby Ensor) for being supportive through all the years.
"They have always been there for me," said Donald. "I owe a great deal to them."
With the long hours needed to build a championship team, a coach spends many hours away from his family.
"My wife Stephanie, and my children, Brandi, Davy and Daniel sacrifice so much," Donald said. "Stephanie has been so special, and so have the families of the other coaches."
Donald also praised principal John Fine and his right-hand man John Taylor for supporting the team the way they did.
"Mr. Fine and Big John was always there for me," Donald said. "If I needed anything, they were always supportive."
Donald touched on the success of the program and some of its accomplishments.
"Some of these kids that played will go on and become community leaders," he said.
He also touched on a school the size of Unaka having two Rangers playing at the NCAA Division II collegiate level. With Rusty (Chambers) at Lincoln Memorial and Aaron (Dugger) at Lees-McRae, it shows that others are aware of our program and the kids we have here."
The coach added he couldn't find anything on television the other night, so he watched all three state tournament games on DVD.
"It still runs cold chills over me when I see what those kids were able to do," he said. "I will never forget the effort they gave during that championship run.
Neither will the players, nor Ranger fans ever forget what Donald has accomplished at Unaka High School.
"They couldn't have picked a better coach to give that award to," stated Rusty Chambers. "Donald taught me more than just basketball. I am very happy for him."
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